Steve Bruce must revert to a back four if he wants to give us the best possible chance of victory against Leeds on Friday.
We are four games into the new Premier League season and have played a back three – that quickly becomes a back five – in all of our games so far, conceding a worrying 12 goals in the process.
The system worked at the end of last season as we rallied together to finish strongly and a huge 17 points above the drop zone. I feel that this is why Bruce has continued to persist with the same tactics so far.
However, our Friday night opponents, Leeds, have also had a sluggish start to the new campaign.
Marcelo Bielsa’s ultra-attacking men remain winless too and they have been leaking goals defensively as well, conceding 11 goals in their opening four fixtures.
They head to St James’ Park with Liam Cooper as their only fit centre half and their relentless philosophy will no doubt give us opportunities to craft goal-scoring opportunities of our own.
Our problem since Callum Wilson’s injury against Southampton is that we have nobody in the box to finish them.
Against Man Utd, a toothless Toon side managed to get into some promising positions in the Red Devil’s half but we’re unable to get bodies in the box, a quality Joelinton has failed to offer for far too long now.
That is why I would bring Dwight Gayle back to the fold for our game against Leeds.
Gayle turns 32 next month, and has struggled to cement himself in the Newcastle side ever since we gained promotion from the Championship in 2017.
Critics label him as a second-tier player; that may be true, but he is the closest thing we have to a “fox in the box” type striker while our first-choice number nine remains injured.
At the back, the big question would be who plays at left back if we do decide to go back to a four-man defence.
Matt Ritchie is regarded as a winger-turned-wingback; a player who lacks the defensive discipline to play comfortably in a four.
Jamal Lewis has been hopeless since his £13million signing from Norwich and, while I wouldn’t write off his Toon career just yet, we are desperate for points on the board and I couldn’t rely on him to put in the performance we need.
Paul Dummett, if fit, would walk straight into the backline for me and offers the grit, determination and experience that we need to try and pick up our first win of the season.
Bruce will also have to make a brutal call as to what he does with our goalkeeping dilemma. Freddie Woodman made two errors against Man Utd and cost us a game we didn’t actually play too badly in, but would dropping him for Karl Darlow upset the mood in the dressing room further?
Similar to Lewis/Dummett decision, I’d have to be ruthless and give Darlow the nod between the sticks.
NUFC immediately adopted a midfield diamond upon Graeme Jones’ arrival in January; it worked with favourable success until injuries hit and that is a formation I’d be looking to use again.
With Isaac Hayden holding, Joe Willock and Sean Longstaff in front and Miggy Almiron at the tip of the diamond, I feel there would be plenty legs in that Toon midfield to help combat the energetic style that Leeds will inevitably bring.
Willock, Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin further forward would need to bring the service to Gayle, who is capable of getting in the right areas to score goals if he plays in and around the Leeds penalty area.
Finally, Fabian Schar offers so much more than any other of our centre backs in my opinion, and has really seen his career wasted under Bruce.
He looked excellent in a back four before his knee injury against Southampton back in February, and he would be a no-brainer to return to my side on Friday, alongside Jamaal Lascelles.
Charlie’s line-up: (4-1-3-2) Darlow – Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett – Hayden, Longstaff, Willock – Almiron – Saint-Maximin, Gayle.